Schnittke, Weill, Takemitsu

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Schnittke,Takemitsu,Weill
LABELS: Nimbus
WORKS: Sonata for Violin and Chamber Orchestra; Concerto grosso No. 6; Nostalghia
PERFORMER: Daniel Hope (violin), Simon Mulligan (piano); English SO/William Boughton
CATALOGUE NO: NI 5582
We rarely encounter the English Symphony Orchestra in such radical international repertoire as this, but Boughton and his band rise admirably to the challenges. In their various ways, all four pieces live on an expressive edge, and admirably showcase the considerable talents of young violinist Daniel Hope.

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He’s well served by some nicely pointed wind playing in Kurt Weill’s early Concerto, bringing out its brittle, acidic, post-Busonian lyricism. From this Weimar neo-classicism it’s no huge distance to the capering irony and melancholia of Schnittke’s early Sonata, composed in the shadows of Shostakovich, Berg and Brezhnev. Hope finds much poetry in it, as well as bitter wit. Spivakov, very closely recorded, is more brilliantly voluble and dramatic, but exaggerates detail at the expense of the work’s overall trajectory.

Thirty years on, in his last Concerto grosso (where Hope shares the limelight with pianist Simon Mulligan), Schnittke’s irony had worn away into something much bleaker. The bare textures, glassy deliberation and manic toccatas seem bent on holding back inevitable extinction. Though this is an eloquently focused performance, here I prefer the even darker Chandos version (with the dedicatee, Postnikova), despite the undoubtedly greater accuracy of Nimbus’s text.

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Takemitsu himself praised Hope’s interpretation of Nostalghia, his intensely beautiful elegy for Andrei Tarkovsky. Hope’s account, more spacious than Otto Derolez, seems well-nigh definitive, and the ESO, if less satin-toned and ethereal than I Fiamminghi, find in the piece a wider range of dynamics, and a warmer humanity. Altogether an impressive release, thoughtfully planned and documented, the recording excellently balanced. Calum MacDonald